Resources to support School Excellence in Action

Access the comprehensive range of School Excellence resources to understand more about each School Excellence cycle component.

School Excellence cycle animations

An overview of the School Excellence cycle

A brief overview of the 2021-24 School Excellence cycle - providing NSW public schools with the tools to drive continuous school improvement and improved student outcomes.

Schools are dynamic communities and everyone working in them is best placed to determine how to meet the needs of their students.

School improvement is at the heart of what we do. It's a continuous process centred on supporting the growth and achievement of every student in every classroom.

That's why we've been working with schools to develop the strategic improvement planning process, ensuring all schools have the right tools and support to build a brighter future for all students.

The strategic improvement planning process helps schools identify and talk about what's going well and what they can do even better.

The process also helps our schools work closely with their communities to set and prioritise goals aimed at improving their students learning, growth and well-being.

Schools then develop a plan for what their teachers and leaders will do, then they implement and monitor their progress towards achieving their goals.

And every year schools have a chance to reflect on their plan and celebrate progress.

Each school's strategic improvement plan is a great way for leaders, teachers and support staff to come together with the entire school community and develop a coherent and reflective school plan. With this plan we can ensure that every student, every teacher, every leader and every school improves every year.

Visit the NSW Education website and search ‘School Excellence’ to find out more.

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An introduction to the steps involved in the School Excellence cycle

An introduction to the steps involved in 2021-24 School Excellence cycle. The School Excellence cycle aligns components of the School Excellence Framework, providing our NSW public schools a process to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate strategies to drive improved student outcomes.

Schools use the School Excellence Framework in their pursuit of excellence. They also consider research from the Centre for Educational Statics and Evaluation (CESE), including What Works Best.

By providing a clear description of quality practices across the key domains of education – learning, teaching and leading - the School Excellence cycle provides our schools with a process to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate strategies that drive improved student outcomes.

The first step schools undertake is a Situational Analysis. This involves reviewing and evaluating their current plan and other data sources, analysing School Excellence Framework Self-assessment Survey data, using the findings from their external validation and determining future directions.

Once completed, the Situational Analysis is used to consult with the community, review and amend the school’s vision and context statements, and determine the high level strategic directions the school will take over the next four years.

This will inform the development of the Strategic Improvement Plan. By identifying their improvement measures, schools can then determine the most appropriate initiatives to achieve them. The initiatives should be clearly aligned to the improvement measures. Schools then determine their success criteria, which will direct them to the evidence they’ll need when evaluating their Strategic Improvement Plan. The School Excellence Framework and What Works Best should be carefully considered throughout this process.

We have also released a new user friendly template in SPaRO. All schools will develop their Strategic Improvement Plan using this simplified template.

Continuous school improvement is enabled by needs-based funding and the strategic allocation of resources. As part of the ongoing implementation and progress monitoring of the plan, schools collect and evaluate evidence to ensure they’re meeting the needs of each of their students.

Each year, schools evaluate and reflect on the impact of their initiatives against their annual progress measures, ensuring that they are on track to achieve their improvement measures. This will be auto-populated into the annual report. The annual reflection also includes reviewing and completing the school’s SEF S-aS.

The process aligns purposeful resource allocation with authentic self-assessment, engaging all staff to drive improved student outcomes. This way we can ensure every student, every teacher, every leader and every school improves every year.

For further support, visit the NSW Education website and search ‘School Excellence’ or you can contact your Director, Educational Leadership or your local Principal, School Leadership.

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Situational analysis walkthrough

In the first step in the School Excellence cycle, schools undertake a situational analysis to assess their current state. This video outlines the steps taken in the situational analysis, which is a key component in developing the Strategic Improvement Plan.

This three part video series will explore the steps schools follow on their school excellence journey. First, schools undertake a situational analysis.

This is followed by the development of a Strategic Improvement Plan, which is implemented and monitored. Each year schools reflect on the impact of their initiatives to ensure that they are on track for achieving their improvement measures.

A situational analysis is an authentic and rigorous assessment of a school’s current state. The analysis is a key component of the school excellence cycle and it is an essential step in the development of the plan.

A school conducting a situational analysis looks inward, outward and forward.

Schools look inwards to analyse school data, and consider the views of staff, students, parents and carers. It includes using professional judgement to review what, why and how a practice was done – and the end result.

A school should look outwards to review their baselines and targets, consider research on effective school improvement strategies - and consult with the community about its current and future state.

Lastly, it involves looking forward to consider the future directions a school will take as it focuses on improvement and excellence.

Schools can follow five steps to complete their situational analysis in SPaRO.

The first step involves analysing the data contained within the Scout dashboard to enter into SPaRO. This inward reflection provides a snapshot of the school within the following areas: Enrolment, Wellbeing, Student Performance, Human Resources and Finance. Schools should also consider their system-negotiated targets in this section.

Next, schools review the School Excellence Framework-Self assessment Survey (SEF-SaS) for the past two years, and the latest External Validation panel report. The External Validation analysis includes an in-depth review of the executive summary and future directions.

Step three involves reviewing and analysing other valid data sources to inform future planning. This includes internal performance and wellbeing data that cannot be accessed through Scout, along with the evaluation of the existing school plan. This is an important step for each and every school. Schools should also consider reliable and relevant research and literature around high impact strategies that work.

In considering all of the evidence, schools can make judgements as to their areas for improvement. These considerations will be used to determine the school’s strategic directions.

Using all you have learned through your situational analysis, you are now ready to consult with your broader community and collaboratively determine your vision statement, school context and the development of your Strategic Improvement Plan for the next four years.

This thorough investigation ensures a school’s decision making maximises the learning outcomes and opportunities for everyone – supporting excellence in learning, teaching and leading.

Watch the next video in the series, which focuses on the Strategic Improvement Plan.

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Strategic Improvement Plan (SIP) walkthrough

After the situational analysis, schools use collected data and work with the community to develop a Strategic Improvement Plan. This plan sets out the specific steps a school will take in their pursuit of continuous school improvement and improving student outcomes.

Following the development of the situational analysis, each school will work with their community to develop their Strategic Improvement Plan.

The new Strategic Improvement Plan is uploaded into a simplified template using the SPaRO software. The Strategic Improvement Plan is published on each school's website.

The Strategic Improvement Plan starts with the school vision statement and school context. These two statements provide an orientation to the school for those reading the plan.

The school’s vision statement describes the school’s shared aspirations for all students, and can include aspirations for teachers and leaders.

The context statement describes the school’s unique features that reflect the educational, geographical, and social characteristics of the school. It also clearly states the school’s identified areas for improvement as determined by the findings of the situational analysis.

In developing the plan, schools identify up to three strategic directions that reflect high level areas for improvement. These are based on the school’s situational analysis and community consultation, and should clearly articulate the focus of improvement.

The first strategic direction for all schools will focus on Student Growth and Attainment. The other two directions can be chosen by schools.

Each strategic direction is supported by a purpose statement. The purpose statement directly relates to the school’s vision and clearly explains why a strategic direction was chosen as a focus.

An improvement measure is a statement of the impact that will be achieved by the expected year of the School Excellence cycle. Each school will plan one or two high level initiatives to achieve the improvement measures and success criteria for each strategic direction.

Each initiative is planned, monitored and evaluated throughout the four-year planning cycle.

The success criteria defines the specific improvements in learning, behaviours, and practices that will be seen or observed by the end of the four-year cycle as a result of achieving the improvement measures.

Each school develops an evaluation plan by identifying the strategies, data and evidence that will be used to self-assess the progress towards, and the impact of, the strategic direction. This information will assist schools in future decision making. Schools monitor and track the implementation and progress of their plan on a regular basis in the SPaRO software.

Throughout this process, all aspects of the Strategic Improvement Plan are discussed and endorsed by both the principal and the DEL. The final Strategic Improvement Plan is approved by the DEL and published on the school’s website.

Visit the NSW Education website and search ‘School Excellence’ to find the School Excellence in Action website. Or refer to the user guide in SPaRO for more information on developing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating your school’s Strategic Improvement Plan.

You can also watch the next video in the series on implementation and progress monitoring.

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Implementation and progress monitoring walkthrough

Once the SIP is finalised, schools will implement and monitor its progress in SPaRO, through ongoing evaluation of activities related to initiatives. This process is recommended twice a term. Schools add, tag and annotate evidence. The annual reflection is a review of the impact of these activities, supported by evidence. The annual reflection auto-populates the annual report.

Schools implement and monitor the progress of their Strategic Improvement Plan using school-determined activities and annual progress measures. Annual progress measures and initiatives are aligned to the strategic directions, and they identify the improvement the school is aiming for in each year of the plan.

The year in which the improvement measure is expected to be achieved is auto-populated from the strategic direction. Backward and forward mapping from the improvement measures determines progression through each year of the plan.

Schools evaluate the annual progress measure each year and record the impact achieved in their annual reflection.

Schools monitor and track implementation and progress of their strategic improvement plan on a regular basis in the SPaRO software.

Initiatives are the high level projects or processes identified in each strategic direction. They describe how each strategic direction will be achieved.

Activities are the key steps developed to support the implementation of each initiative and are added to the implementation and progress monitoring table as required. Schools identify the term and week for the start of each activity. The current progress of the activity can be recorded using the traffic light system. The relevant School Excellence Framework elements can be tagged for each activity to align the strategic planning, self-assessment and external validation processes. Activities can be assigned to individual staff or teams which are saved as tags for future use.

Resources are allocated to support the delivery of each activity. It’s important that schools select the relevant funding source using the ‘Add funding source’ button. Details of the planned spending can be included in the text box.

Schools regularly evaluate the progress and impact of their planned activities by analysing and reflecting on a range of data sources. The evidence can be stored in SPaRO using the paperclip icon. Evidence can be tagged using key words to organise and strengthen self-assessment processes. The evaluation of evidence will inform the school’s next steps.

Each year, schools evaluate and reflect upon the impact of their initiatives using the annual progress measures. This helps to ensure that they are on track for achieving the improvement measures. The annual reflection table will be auto-populated into the annual report. Schools also complete their SEF S-aS as part of this annual reflection.

Visit the NSW Education website and search ‘School Excellence’ to find the School Excellence in Action website.

Or refer to the user guide in SPaRO for more information on the implementation and progress monitoring of your school’s Strategic Improvement Plan.

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Resourcing your Strategic Improvement Plan

A school's Strategic Improvement Plan maps the steps towards improved student outcomes. Find out how your SBAR allocation can resource your SIP to deliver school improvement and excellence.

When we work towards being a great school that meets the needs of all of our students, we focus on creating the best conditions for student growth, attainment and wellbeing. In so doing, we consider the most effective use of needs-based funding and the strategic allocation of our resources.

Our resources need to be targeted to the school initiatives within the Strategic Improvement Plan, then monitored and evaluated regularly throughout the year.

New guides and online tools have been developed to support schools in using the available resources effectively, to best meet student needs. This creates strong links between the effective use of school resourcing, the school’s Strategic Improvement Plan and improved student outcomes.

Effective resourcing considers your school’s context and needs, and focuses on the impact funding has made on achieving your strategic directions and improvement measures.

Unpacking your School Budget Allocation Report (SBAR) will identify the human and financial resources available to support your school’s strategic directions and other priorities.

A funding source table has been built into the School Planning and Reporting Online tool to assist with planning and monitoring your SBAR allocations and to help evaluate and adjust resources throughout the year. It’s important that the funding is used for students in the year in which it is allocated.

When developing your four-year Strategic Improvement Plan, it’s essential to describe the measurable impacts you’re aiming to achieve, and to ensure that the needs of all your students, including equity groups, are considered.

Allocate the available human and financial resources to the planned activities within your evidence-based initiatives. If needed, you can reallocate resources to achieve your annual progress and improvement measures.

During your annual reflection, ensure that needs-based funding aligns with improved student learning and wellbeing outcomes.

Publish your annual report before the end of Term 1 each year.

It is essential that accountability for the effective use of needs-based funding extends well beyond financial expenditure to evaluating the impact of these funds on student learning and wellbeing.

In doing so, we can reduce the impact of disadvantage and support a brighter future for all of our students.

Visit the NSW Education website and search ‘School Excellence’ to find the School Excellence in Action website and refer to the guide for resourcing your Strategic Improvement Plan.

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Annual reflection animation

Schools start their annual reflection in Term 4 to evaluate progress towards improvement measures in their Strategic Improvement Plan. Watch the animation.

Beginning in Term 4, schools start the annual reflection by evaluating the impact of their Strategic Improvement plan, publishing the annual report and using the findings to make informed decisions for the next phase of their school plan.

As part of the School Excellence cycle, schools complete an annual reflection to evaluate both the impact of their initiatives, and how their allocation of resources is contributing to improved student outcomes. This helps schools make high level decisions and ensure they are on track for achieving the intended purpose of their Strategic Improvement Plan.

When evaluating the effectiveness of the planned initiatives and activities, it is important for schools to consider not just evidence of activity, but also evidence of process quality, and importantly, evidence of impact. This evidenced-based evaluation identifies the effectiveness of initiatives and progress towards achieving improvement measures.

It is also important to reflect on how needs-based funding has been used to enable successful initiatives that support sustained growth. Through the annual reflection, schools evaluate their progress and make informed judgments for the next phase of their school’s plan. This information is shared with the community when it is published in the school's annual report.

SPaRO allows schools to have a clear view of the activities they have implemented, their ongoing evaluations and the evidence that informs progress, improvement and future directions.

The annual reflection includes evaluating the progress towards achieving improvement measures and the impact of needs-based funding. Schools start by reflecting on the enablers and/or barriers to implementing their initiatives while designing the next steps needed to achieve the improvement measure. Schools also report the extent of achievement of the annual progress measures.

Finally, schools evaluate how their needs-based funding has been used to enable key initiatives. Improved features in SPaRO make it easier for schools to consider the resources allocated, the initiatives funded, and the impact of these activities.

The information entered in SPaRO during the annual reflection auto-populates into sections of the school’s annual report.

The most important aspect of the annual reflection is schools evaluating their progress to make informed judgments for the next phase of their school’s plan.

End of transcript.

School Excellence support material

Please note that the professional learning (PL) identified in the following flowcharts and guides are no longer registered PL, as per NESA's announcement in late 2020. All PL highlighted in this material can be considered elective PL.

Resourcing your Strategic Improvement Plan

For 2023, when developing and reporting on your SIP, please use the 2023 Resourcing your Strategic Improvement Plan guide.


  • Situational analyses - samples (staff only)
  • Strategic Improvement Plans - samples (staff only)
  • Implementation and progress monitoring - samples (staff only)

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  • Reporting and performance
  • School Excellence Framework
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